The Secret Place by Tana French
I’ve really enjoyed Tana French’s mysteries, set in Ireland. I think she’s my favorite mystery writer right now. I really like how she shows how her characters experience happiness, even joy, and how that joy is often directly related to their tragic ends. Her mysteries seem to focus on very insular groups, tight-knit families and clusters of friends. French sometimes takes apart different social communities, like the low-income neighborhood of Faithful Place, or in this case, a high-class boarding school for girls. The wide range of the communities that French has examined over five books is kind of impressive. French’s mysteries are books that a reader of literary novels can appreciate because they’re very character-driven and full of stellar prose.
French chooses a different detective protagonist for each novel, usually one who was a supporting character in a previous book. In The Secret Place, that’s Stephen Moran, who had helped Frank Mackey bag the murderer in Faithful Place. Frank’s daughter Holly is also a main character in this book. In this book, narration alternates between Stephen (first person, present time) and Holly and her friends (third person, the year leading up to the murder).
The murder was a prep school boy killed on the grounds of an elite girls’ boarding school. A year after the murder, Holly comes to Stephen with a message she saw posted on the school’s secret-sharing board: “I know who killed him.” Stephan and the prickly female lead detective, Conway, interview Holly and her friends and enemies to discover who posted the message and what she knows. In alternating chapters, we learn about Holly’s friends and their world at the boarding school, the events that made them so close, and the fissures in their friendships that led up to the murder.
The sixth book in the series, The Trespasser, is out this month. I’ll be excited to pick it up!